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Meet Simon Barnes, our featured artist…

Friday 29th January 2016

Simon Barnes is a Harlow based artist, specialising in the unusual medium of Egg Tempera – an ancient Roman method of fast-drying painting, which uses coloured pigments egg yolk as a binder. His current instalment, ‘Roman Impressions’, is on display in the Eastgate Gallery of Gatehouse Arts.

After leaving school, Simon went on to study art at Harlow Technical College, before starting work in 1980 as a paste-up artist in an Art and Photographic Studio based in London. Long before the days of Photoshop, Simon learned to manual touch up images with an airbrush to be reproduced in national publications.

Roman Re-enactments

Over the years, his art progressed, and he became a commercial illustrator, using pen, ink, acrylic and oil paints. However, when he and his wife decided to join ‘Britannia’ – the Harlow based Late Roman Re-enactment society –  he discovered the medium of Egg Tempera. It has since become his favourite medium of painting.

Joining the society in school visits, Simon educates children through painting demonstrations and talks, keeping the historical craft alive and helping others to discover the joy of working with Egg Tempera. “After all,” he told us “it was a painting technique that was used by ancient societies for over 2,500 years.”

Roman Impressions

The window display in the Eastgate Gallery of Gatehouse Arts showcases a variety of Simon’s pieces, as well as the items he uses to create the work. For paint palettes, for example, he uses oyster shells, and the glass jars containing the various pigments have been reproduced based on archaeological finds from the era – giving his painting experience the most genuine feel possible.

Pop down to the instalment to see the traditional Roman style art work, as well as the red and yellow spoke design shield that Simon uses during arena battle re-enactments! The instalment will remain in the gallery until 9th February.

Life as an Artist

“The artists’ life in the studio can be lonely, only if you let it,” Simon explains. “I use the studio as a thinking space and an aid to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. I work at home too.”

Whilst Simon feels that he’s still only scratched the surface of the range and scope of the medium of Egg Tempera, he feels that every painting he creates is something new that he’s learned. His work isn’t based on emotions in a traditional sense, but rather the emotion in the work emerges through the subject matter, or the way he’s laid the paint on the gessoed board.

Using these subtle subtexts, Simon’s goal is to use his art to keep producing work that people can find a personal connection with, and enjoy the paintings in their own way.

The Future

Simon says that his dream project would be to create public murals.  “In the meantime, I’m starting a triptych about Arthur; it is connected with the show at Old Sarum last year that appeared as an episode on the Yesterday channel series ‘Weekend Warriors’.”

Catch Simon’s installation  at Gatehouse Arts, opposite The Harvey Centre – and once you’re feeling inspired, head to The Works in the centre to stock up on art supplies and give it a go yourself!

For more information on Simon Barnes and his work, you can visit his Facebook Page.


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